A human friend joins us today in the Troll Woods. Invited for companionship. he repays with a mushroom hunter’s knowledge. Born in America of Sicilian immigrants, he brings an enthusiast’s excitement to the gathering of wild food.
We hadn’t started on a mushroom hunt but rather a morning walk under the newly appeared sun. Water backed up from a growing beaver dam flooded our chosen trail to force us into the Troll Woods where he discovers a Porcini mushroom (Boletus edulis) standing above the mossy ground. Nearby we find tipped over Porcini look a likes that have gills that mark them as a different genus. Another hunter passed this way before us to grab the choicest mushrooms.
With a strong morning sun muscling its way to the forest floor I decide to take my friend home over a trackless section of the woods. We can’t get lost as long as we keep the sun in our faces.
We move slowly over the soft moss covered ground, sometimes following faint deer trails or the heavy worn paths made by beavers. Other times its a ballet over and around tree trunks and branches. Aki stays with the mushroom hunter to show him the way when I move out of his sight. A gentleman, he thanks her each time.
It’s a slow, peace bringing task to follow the sun through these thick woods. We pass an indentation in the moss still steaming from the heat of the deer that just left it. This brings stories from my friend of other hikes and shared kayak trips. An hour and more passes without notice until we regain the man made trail. It takes us to a burned area where a spider web of sinister beauty, backlit by the climbing sun, is the sole decoration in a fire blackened alder tree. Nearby two huge Russula mushrooms, encouraged by the warming sun, push skyward. One wears a mossy cap.
Here we also find more Boletus mushrooms — enough for a lunch— and gather them up. Arriving at my friend’s home, we examine our find and discover blue dots forming in the mushroom flesh. They aren’t the delectable Porcini after all but a cousin not worth cooking. He shrugs and delivers a salad rich in fresh greens, olives and tomatoes. Tall bottles of oil and vinegar arrive next along with chunks of hard Italian cheese and a thin dried salami. Then he brings us thick brown hard bread. I smile for now there is no room on the table or stomachs for mushrooms.